Study has good news for social Web safety

A new study finds that 96% of online teens use social networking, yet the vast majority have never had an unknown adult ask them for personal information.

by Anne Collier

August 2007


In releasing its study "Creating & Connecting: Research &
Guidelines on Online Social – and Educational – Networking" this month, the
National School Boards Association added some balance to the
public discussion about safety on the social Web. The 10-page report is
just as useful to parents as it is to educators. Conducted for the NSBA
by Grunwald Associates, the study found that…

These days US
9-to-17-year-olds are spending almost as much time on the social Web
(about 9 hours/week) as they are watching TV (about 10 hours/week), and
for many that online activity is "highly creative."

"Overall,
an astonishing 96% of students with online access report that they have
ever used social-networking technologies, such as chatting, text
messaging, blogging, and visiting online communities, such as Facebook,
MySpace and services designed specifically for young children, such as
Webkins and the chat sections of Nick.com," the NSBA reports.
Interestingly, one of the most common topics of conversation in all
this online communicating is education itself (about 60% of social
networkers talk about this and 50% specifically about schoolwork).
Grunwald surveyed, students, parents, and school district leaders for
this study.

As for those creative online activities, the NSBA
and Grunwald found that:

* 32% of online students share music

* 30% share videos
* 24% photos (22% their own photos or artwork)
* 12% are updating/decorating
their Web pages
* 30% have blogs
* 16% create and share virtual objects
such as puzzles, houses, clothing, and games
* 14% create new
characters at least weekly
* 10% contribute to online collaborative
projects.

Unprecedented key finding

Interestingly, the survey found that students who are "nonconformists … are on the cutting
edge of social networking, with online behaviors an skills that
indicate leadership among their peers." They're "significantly heavier
users of social networking sites" – 50% of them are producers and 38%
are editors of online content. These students, the study found, are
"significantly more likely than other students" to be "traditional
influentials," "promoters," "recruiters," "organizers," and
"networkers."

Fewer risks than expected
"Study: Fears over kids' online safety overblown" is the headline on ArsTechnica.com's report on the NSBA study.
It "suggests strongly … that the overwhelming majority of kids have
never had an unknown adult ask them for personal information." And
there's a big discrepancy between students' actual experience with
risk, as they reported it to the researchers, and school perceptions.
More than half of US school districts (52%) say students providing
personal information online has been "a significant problem," while
"only 3% of students say they've ever given out their email addresses,
screennames, or other personal info to strangers." The School Boards
Association ends the report calling on schools to "reexamine their
social-networking policies." It's important to have such policies, it
says, but students may learn online safety and responsible online
expression better "while they're actually using social-networking
tools." [The ArsTechnica piece includes a link to the complete study in pdf format.]

Related link
PC World on the study: "Report Refutes Claims of Social Networking Dangers" http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,135687-c,techindustrytrends/article.html
 

 

 

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